A tea party-backed candidate for California governor linked his opponent to Sharia law this week, declaring he's "horrified" by his fellow Republican's past participation in a conference on Islamic financial practices, the Los Angeles Times
The charge coincides with protests in California against a luxury hotel's ties to Brunei, an Islamic monarchy that is imposing Sharia-based criminal penalties, including death, on adulterers and homosexuals.
Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, currently the front-runner for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, used Facebook on Tuesday to link his opponent, Neel Kashkari, to those laws and to the furor over the Sultan of Brunei's local hotel holdings.
Kashkari was an assistant U.S. treasury secretary under President George W. Bush. In 2008, he spoke at an academic forum called "Islamic Finance 101" that explored whether free markets and Islam, which restricts money-lending, can co-exist.
"Given the recent stories and protests about the outrage of the discriminatory nature of Sharia law," Donnelly wrote on Facebook, "we're horrified that Kashkari would support Sharia anything."
Donnelly also posted that "Neel Kahkari supported the United States' submitting to the Islamic, Shariah banking code in 2008 when he ran TARP," the San Francisco Chronicle
reports. Kashkari worked on the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) bank rescue after the financial meltdown of 2007.
Kashkari called Donnelly's attacks "absurd." One California Republican went farther, suggesting Donnelly wanted to gin up votes by inflaming racial prejudice against his opponent.
"Anybody with brains knows that you're using the fact that Neel has darker skin and a name that sounds like it could be Middle Eastern to scare uninformed voters and rally your base," Eli Rubenstein, a Kashkari supporter, wrote in a letter to the Donnelly campaign.
Rubenstein, in his letter, threatened to "enthusiastically" support the incumbent, Jerry Brown
, if Donnelly prevails in the primary.
Kashkari, who is Hindu, was born in Akron, Ohio, to Indian immigrant parents. He grew up to become an engineer, an investment banker and a treasury official under Presidents Bush and Obama. He's never held elective office, and political observers consider any Republican bid to unseat California's popular Democratic governor a long shot.
Donnelly took some heat for an offbeat campaign ad featuring the Hispanic actress Maria Conchita Alonso that critics called racially insensitive. Donnelly, whose wife is from the Philippines, went on CNN to deny being a racist.
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